The Past Is Alive In The Present

Historical photographs of fly fishing the Firehole River in Yellowstone Park are extremely rare. Pictured below is an image from an obscure book titled Design for Angling, The Dry Fly on Western Trout Streams, written by Alexander Macdonald. Publication date, 1947. The photograph itself is undated and contains no location information. But serious Firehole anglers will immediately recognize the spot as coming from the meadow in Biscuit Basin. I thought it might be interesting to recreate the shot and see what’s changed over the last 73 (or more) years. My image was taken yesterday.

In comparing the pictures, I think it’s clear that Ella Winter was right—you can’t go home again. Be that as it may, you can still visit the neighborhood. And even if things are no longer exactly the same, the essence of what once was often remains. That’s the case here. Mother Nature wrought big change (as she is wont to do) in the years between these pictures, and it was difficult to decide precisely where to stand for my version. Judging from the ridge in the background it may seem that I should have been standing slightly farther upstream (the river flows towards us) and looking more to the right, but you’ll have to take my word that doing so lost the perspective entirely.

Of one thing I am sure. There are still plenty of trout in the Firehole, and its meadows remain a beautiful place to spend time fishing.


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